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November 8, 2018
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City’s Hindus celebrate festival of lights

Karachi

November 8, 2018

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Dipping his brush in light orange paint, Sarwan Kumar paints the wall adjacent to the gate of a house tucked away at the corner of a lane in Narayanpura. Like other members of the city’s Hindu community, he is preparing for the annual celebrations of Diwali on Wednesday.

The festival of lights marks the return of Hindu deity Rama from a 14-year old exile to reunite with his wife, Sita and brother, Lakshman. Hindus celebrate Rama’s homecoming by lighting oil lamps to signify the triumph of Rama against Ravan, who is synonymous with evil forces.

While the adults who work in the government departments get a day off on Diwali, the children have to skip school and do not get a compensatory off. “This happened on Navratri as well,” Kumar tells The News. “The eve is about staying up at night and our children had their exams earlier than usual so they would sleep early.”

He explains that since Diwali celebrations are held till sunrise, they can’t expect the children to go to school the next day, so the kids just skip school. He felt strongly that Hindus should get offs for religious festivals too.

Comparing the celebrations with previous years, Kumar says families are definitely feeling the pinch of inflation. In years prior, in just a few thousands, he could buy enough firecrackers from Jodia Bazaar to last his family for weeks. But, now they only get enough to last one day in the same amount.

A few lanes away, an elderly woman washes the floor of her house as a passerby jumps to avoid the puddle forming on the street. Shanti, who works as a sweeper in Civil Hospital and has grown up in the compound, says Diwali celebrations often last for two or more days. “We clean up our houses and get nice clothes like Muslims do for Eid,” she says. “It is like Eid combined with the festivities of Shab-e-Baraat.” “But I feel that for those who have a lot of money, each day can be a Diwali while for us, we have some days allotted for happiness,” Shanti says with a smile.

Her daughter and granddaughter, Deepa and Mehek, bring shopping bags out to show their plans for the night – Deepa holds up a new peach shirt, while Mehek, a ninth grade student, shows her stash of firecrackers.

Mehek’s friend Kiran joins in as they inspect their purchases. “We have a Jalebi, Topi, Krishna and many more varieties,” she says, explaining that the starting cost of firecrackers is generally Rs100 to Rs150. “We also have butterfly crackers, which fly when they are lit but they end up going to people’s houses which can be an unpleasant surprise for the receiver.”

Mehek explains that all the women and girls would dress up for the evening and after getting done with the Pooja, they would just play games or walk around the locality careful to avoid the crackers which often land on their feet.

As the evening draws near, eight-year-old Joy huddles around in a group of boys. He carefully places a toffee cracker, with a blue and red end, on the cover of a manhole and lights a matchstick. All the boys instinctively back away.

The cracker catches fire and the sparks soon go flying everywhere. A couple of the boys begin dancing to the sound of the firecracker, their voices filling the streets – a precursor to the real fun that would begin in a few hours.

Governor felicitates staffers

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail on Wednesday participated in a ceremony held at the Staff Colony of Governor House where its Hindu staff members celebrated Diwali, adds our correspondent.

Governor Ismail distributed gifts among children of the Hindu families that reside at the Staff Colony.

He said Islam had always advocated the cause of fulfilment of all the due fundamental rights of members of all the religious minorities residing in a Muslim country. That is also the reason Prime Minister Imran Khan has been striving hard for the provision of all due rights of people belonging to all religious minorities living in the country, he added.

The governor further said that the Hindu community had always played an important role in the development and progress of Pakistan in general and of Sindh in particular. The festival of Diwali always stood for ending despondency among people and instilling new positive hopes and expectations among them as that is why the Hindu community has always observed this festival with full religious fervour, he said, adding Diwali should be utilised to say special prayers for progress, development, unity and lasting peace in the country.

The present government fully believes in the concept of inter-faith harmony. In this regard, members of all religious minorities, including the Hindu community, have been enjoying complete freedom to practice their respective religions.

The Hindu staffers of the Governor House thanked the Sindh governor for participating in their festivities, saying their celebration had increased manifold with his presence.

Bilawal’s greetings

A day earlier, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had extended greetings to the Hindu communities all over the world in general and Pakistan in particular on.

In his message for Diwali, he held out assurances to the non-Muslims living in Pakistan that his party would always stand for their protection and promotion as equal citizens of the state as per the vision of the founding fathers of the country and the teachings of Islam.

Bilawal further said that Diwali was celebrated as a triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, adding that the philosophy of the PPP was also to fight against darkness, injustices and inequality.

He urged all those celebrating Diwali to hold special prayers for the peace, prosperity and progress of the country as well as for interfaith harmony and cohesive coexistence in society. Bilawal also asked PPP leaders, especially those of its minority wing, to celebrate and share the festivities with the have-nots who needed more attention and care.

Sindh police chief IGP Dr Syed Kaleem Imam directed all the deputy inspectors general of police to strengthen strict security around temples and other worship places of the Hindu community across the province on the occasion of the Diwali festival.

He said that strict security measures would be taken for the Lakshmi Pooja and other celebrations. He advised the police to coordinate with the notables of the Hindu community and ensure effective communication at police station level.

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